Monday, October 11, 2010

How to go off Benzoyl Peroxide and why I did it?

You must be surprised to see this cleanser on my blog, since I rarely use any American products, and when I do, it's mostly cosmetics, but I actually have used this cleanser for more than 2 years, and have just stopped  using this recently. NOTE: I'm writing this article as a tip for how to go off on benzoyl peroxide cleansers in general, not just this cleanser, but I'm using this as a specific example.
Why I started using this product: Call me stupid or short sighted, but in my teenage years, I was really bothered by the few pimples that I had (which come to think of it, wasn't really a lot, around 3 or 4 weekly). I found this while going grocery shopping with my mother, and then went home to check on the reviews. I told my mother I wanted to add this item to my skincare, and she tried to persuade me against it. She told me that it is true that this product will give me clearer skin but at a cost, that benzoyl peroxide will dry out my skin and age it in the long run. I was young then, and asked her simply "how much would it age me? Would I be getting wrinkles prematurely? By how many years?" My mother said perhaps 2 to 3 years. At that time, I thought why not? I can have truly clear skin for a long time at the cost of getting wrinkles 2 to 3 years earlier.

What this product did to me: Since I'm writing a tutorial on how to stop using similar cleansers, you must think that I hate hate this product and it's horrible. The fact is, I can't really hate it. It did everything it promised to do: cleanse your face and stop acne. But then, it did not say what it might cause: hyperpigmentation. When I first started using this product, I enjoyed perfect skin for 3 months. Then I got a huge pimple on my cheek. I tried to get it to go away quickly, but it wouldn't. It stayed on my cheek for a whole week, and when it finally began to get smaller, I found that it's leaving behind quite a dark purplish red mark. I was horrified. I had pimples before, but when they are gone, they are gone.... A month passed with no incidents, while I tried to fade the mark, and then I one day tried on a base makeup product. I felt my face gone itchy and red that afternoon, and developed pimples the next day. A week later, those pimples left more marks. For a while, I was obsessed with finding a solution to fade hyperpigmentation, and was really tempted to try hydroquine even though I know it would cause more trouble for me in the future. I ended up using natural remedies: yogurt masks, honey masks and sticking to my skincare. Half a year later, the marks faded. For two years, I never suspected this product was the culprit. Last summer, I was bitten by a mosquito, and someone told me that using this wash to wash the affected area will numb me from itching. It did, but I found that the mosquito bites took a month to fade, whereas it usually take three days, and I still have some hyperpigmentation from the spots left on my arms.

How I discovered this was the culprit: I was on a trip and I forgot to bring this cleanser. I went to Yosemite falls the first few days and couldn't find a drugstore for miles, so I just used another cleanser. I wanted to buy another tube of this as soon as I get out of Yosemite falls, but when I only got a few whiteheads that disappeared the next day, I thought I'd wait till I get home. That was still a lot for me, since while using this cleanser, I rarely got pimples at all, maybe monthly. But I managed to persevere. Miraculously, the pimples I got that week didn't leave marks on me at all and got better the next day usually. I thought about it: either it was the California climate, the stress free life, or the wash. I decided it was the wash, and decided to eliminate it from my regimen.

Why? How does this work?: First off, BP is a really effective over the counter acne medication because it kills the P-bacteria that causes acne. Salycic Acid also works, but is less effective and more gentle in my experience, since it is basically a chemical exoliant. Now, why did BP do this to my skin? Apparently, BP generates free radicals which harms skin, and slows down the healing process of the skin. It may reduce collagen production in rare cases, which is why it might cause premature aging. The reason that my pimples last longer and leave hyperpigmentation is simply because this medicine makes them take longer to heal.
Now the main course: How to go off a cleanser with BP:When I got back from the trip, I decided to go back on to the cleanser, and slowly ease off it, in order to get less pimples (I was optimistic and thought that I was getting one or two pimples a day on that trip because I went off BP too suddenly). And I was right. I was using it once a day at night for two years, so I gradually started using it every other day. I got a few whiteheads at first, so I waited and waited till my skin adjusted and is pretty clear before I started lessening the use of the cleanser again. (btw, it took 2 weeks for my skin to really get used to using this every other day, but I continued doing this for 2 months just to be safe). Then I started using this once every three days, which lasted for 2 weeks, and then once every 4 days. I wanted to gradually increase to once a week, and then once a month before completely going off it, but on my trip to Korea this time, I forgot to pack this cleanser, and harsh cleansers like this are really hard to find in Korea. So I thought never mind. I got 2 to 3 whiteheads a day for the first few days, but now I'm mostly clear (I haven't had any new breakouts for 48 hours, and my old breakouts are clear). My face is pretty clear except for those hyperpigmentation I had from this cleanser before.
Oh, and another tip is to exfoliate more often. You technically don't need to exfoliate while using cleansers with BP, because it peels off skin for you anyway, so when trying to go off it, you need to exfoliate more. When I was using it once every two weeks, I exfoliated once a week, and now that I'm completely off it, I exfoliate twice a week or three times every two weeks.
Drinking a lot of great green tea from Korea might have also helped. My coworkers here are very friendly, and one gifted me with a generous case of green tea (the best tea in Korea and China are usually not placed in tea bags). The quality is quite similar to the tea my grandmother send me every year, which should be of the top quality, since she pick only the tips of leaves by hand on our relative's tea farm in Southern China.

Footnote: What I write here is my own experience, benzoyl peroxide might work excellently for you, and if it does, please do not discontinue use because of my article.


  1. I've also decided to stop using benzoyl peroxide washes and gels after 5 years, due to major hyperpigmentation issues.
    I figure it's pointless to keep using something that eliminates pimples, but leaves behind marks which look even worse!

    Your posts on this have been really helpful in deciding what steps to take next. Hopefully I'll have similar results to yours :)

  2. omg~~~ i stumbled upon your blog and did it help a lot!!! i finally realize why I have those purplish dark marks on my face!!!

  3. Thank you! I have been using BP 2.5% gel 2X a day for several years and I can't take it anymore! I have started on opti-zinc and fish oil supplements as I am gradually getting off the BP and my skin has remained clear so far. I drink a lot of coffee and tap water and I'm far too old to have acne anymore so I believe zinc deficiency to be the cause of my acne. I will update later with my progress.

  4. thank you, awesome and informative post!

  5. Awesome ! Stumbled upon this ! I was going to buy this product but nevermind (:
    Thank you <3


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